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Kids Start to Feel Body Shame Younger Than Ever, Survey Says

The Short of It

A survey finds average children become ashamed of their bodies younger than ever.

The Lowdown

As a mom of three girls, I find a new study about the age at which kids become self-conscious about their bodies particularly interesting.

Yahoo Health surveyed 1,993 teens and adults between the ages of 13 and 64, and it found 13 or 14 is the first age at which the average American remembers feeling ashamed about the way they look. But it seems with each generation, this notion takes root at a younger age. Teens between 13 and 17 years old reported first feeling body shame by age 9 or 10!

Peers and the media play the biggest roles in driving body shame; 60 percent said a classmate's comment was what first caused them to feel badly about their bodies. Seeing a photo of themselves or trying on clothes were also possible triggers. And one in four participants say their parents are behind the bad feelings.

What I found most interesting about this study was that children of body shamers were more likely to be sensitive to all forms of potential body shame. This underscores the vital importance of modeling positive body image for our children and building them up to make them feel good about themselves. It's worth noting kids of body shamers are twice as likely to make a big effort to achieve a positive body image, and they recognize the importance of raising children to feel good about their bodies as well.

The Upshot

Author Robyn Silverman told Yahoo Parenting that social media and easy access to body shaming messaging is definitely to blame for why kids feel body shame earlier than ever.

"We've also got sexualization happening earlier on. Kids feel more hurried to behave [older] and wear adult fashions, and feel that their body needs to look a certain way. All those things taken together are creating a more self-conscious society," she says.

Silverman suggests talking with girls especially about how what they see in magazines or online is not always a depiction of reality.

"It's explaining to them that the girl on the cover of the magazine doesn't even look like the girl on the cover of the magazine. It's puling back the curtain," Silverman says.

Another tip she offers is one I personally adhere to religiously in my home: institute a fat-talk free zone. I make it a point to never say, "I feel fat," in front of my girls. This is so negative, and it's a behavior I definitely don't want them to learn.

Silverman also suggests focusing on what bodies can do instead of how they look. So, saying something like, "My body can birth a baby" and not "I feel fat after having a baby" is the way to go to teach positive body imaging.

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